Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption

by Walidah Imarisha

Paperback, 2016




AK Press (2016), 320 pages


The three lives in this creative nonfiction account are united by the presence of actual harm--sometimes horrific violence. Imarisha, dealing with the complexities of her own experience with sexual assault and accountability, brings us behind prison walls to visit her adopted brother Kakamia and his fellow inmate Jimmy "Mac" McElroy, a member of the brutal Irish gang the Westies. Together they explore the questions: People can do unimaginable things to one another--and then what? What do we as a society do? What might redemption look like? Imarisha doesn't flinch as she guides us through the difficulties and contradictions, eschewing theory for a much messier reality. The result is a nuanced and deeply personal analysis that connects readers emotionally with the lives of people caught up within, and often destroyed by, our criminal justice system.--Publisher… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ShawIslandLibrary
Walidah Imarisha is remarkable. This book, which began as her MFA thesis, has been described as "creative nonfiction", and Imarisha herself says, "Any nonfiction book must be read partially as fiction, for we all tell ourselves stories to make sense of our lives." "Angels With Dirty Faces" tells three stories, two of them focusing on men who served or are serving prison sentences, the other the story of the person who is bringing their stories out from behind the prison bars (Imarisha). If you are concerned about prison and criminal justice reform, if you are concerned about sexual assault, if you are interested in the potential for transformative justice, or are ready to expand your sense of compassion, this book will provide you with joy, pain, enlightenment, anger, and poetry (Imarisha: "Facts are not poetic enough to reveal the rhythm of a human heart. We thank poetry for its inaccuracies—imperfect cracks on the face of beauty through which the light is able to shine through—word to poet Leonard Cohen."). Word to poet, activist, teacher, visionary fiction writer, and inspirational human being Walidah Imarisha.… (more)
LibraryThing member schufman
This book was incredible. It was hard to read not because it was poorly written or dense, but because this book demanded I think and rethink. A lot. About who I am, the country and the skin that I live in, and the bare injustice of the prison system.

This book really asked me to recognize how much I don't know about the history and the actualities of our prison system, and how the many ways we do violence to each other and to ourselves are connected. Bodily autonomy and consent. Justice and revenge. Power and community. Incarceration and slavery. The challenge of living your beliefs when they hurt.… (more)


Original language


Physical description

320 p.; 5.4 inches


1849351740 / 9781849351744

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